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When is it safe to leave your child home alone?

 Reading time: 4 minutes

Deciding when your child is ready to be left home alone is a decision not to be taken lightly. 

There are a lot of factors to take into consideration and it's made all that harder because there are no rules or laws to follow. 

The law doesn't say an age when you can leave a child on their own, but it's an offense to leave a child alone if it places them at risk. (Suitably vague!)

It all boils down to how comfortable you and your child are with the idea as well as how adaptable and mature they are. 


While there is no determined legal age to leave a child at home alone, it should be sufficient to say that babies, toddlers and young children should never be left on their own, even if it is just to pop out to the local corner shop. While the child may be sleeping soundly when you pop out, what happens if they wake and you are not there, they might panic and try to leave the house to find you. 


Here is some advice to help you decide. If, at the end of the day, leaving your child 'home alone' is not an option, you will need to consider suitable childcare. 

  • Babies, toddlers (1-3 years) and young children should never be left alone even if just for a few minutes. 
  • Children under the age of 12 are generally not mature enough to cope should an emergency arise and should not be left at home on their own for long periods of time. 
  • Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight. 
  • Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone. 
  • A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this arrangement, regardless of their age. 
  • If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older brother or sister. When leaving a younger child with an older brother or sister, think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out and you are not there. 

Things to weigh up before leaving your child at home alone:

  1. ​Is your child mature and responsible for their age?
  2. Does your child always do what you ask them to do?
  3. Is your child able to make themselves something simple to eat and drink?
  4. Would you be happy with them using the microwave and oven if you are not there?
  5. How would your child cope if there was an emergency such as a water leak or power cut?
  6. Would they know what to do if the phone rang or someone came to the door?
  7. Does your child have emergency, family and friends' numbers to hand? They might need to contact someone.
  8. Is your child scared by the prospect of being left alone?

'The law on leaving your child on their own' It's a good idea to read this government article.

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